Row Gav Row
By Maria McHale
Today at 11.30am, Galway man Gavan Hennigan will set off on his latest epic adventure; a solo row across the Atlantic in what is called the world’s toughest row, the 5,000km Talisker Whiskey Challenge.
The unsupported race from San Sebastian on the Canary Island of La Gomera to English Harbour in the Carribean Island of Antigua, pushes those who attempt it to their limits. More people have climbed Everest, reached the North Pole or ventured into space than have successfully rowed the Atlantic, so it’s going to be an amazing adventure.
Gavan, who is 35, has form in extreme sports.
Earlier this year in February, Hennigan travelled 300 miles in -30 degrees to finish second in what is widely known as the world’s toughest adventure race, the Yukon Arctic Ultra. Setting the third-fastest time in history, he raced non-stop for five days, completing the event in 123 hours with only six hours of sleep.
A glutton for punishment, he headed off again in March on a solo traverse of Lake Baikal in Siberia. He completed the 700km walk across the oldest and deepest lake in the world in 17 days.
Today, he’s facing several months alone rowing across the Atlantic.
While most of us will be tucking into turkey and all the trimmings on Christmas Day, Hennigan will be breaking out a freeze-dried chicken curry. He’s worked out a perfectly balanced mix of nutrition, with three meals a day and snacks, that will give him 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day.
The daily rowing will burn up to 9,000 calories a day so he’s been building up muscle and body fat stores for months to keep him going. “The logistics of this trip have been the biggest amount of work. Working out everything about how much I will row a day to how much food I need to eat, to how to keep everything in working order. I didn’t anticipate that too well!”, he says.
Now he has a meticulous plan and carefully stocked boat with every potential situation covered. Rowing-wise, there will be little down time on his boat Doireann, although Hennigan plans to make use of podcasts and music to keep himself happy.
His plan is to get to Antigua, barring any out-of-control incidents, in under 50 days, the current record. He intends to row for up to 19 hours a day if he can, in three hour bursts.
“I have enough food to last me for 60 days, but I have a plan and if I can stick to it and get through the row without any serious bad weather or accidents, I’m going to look to make it to the end in less than 50 days”.
Never mind the rowing and living logistics, the mental side of things is what makes most people shudder. Alone, in a boat, on the ocean for potentially three months would send most people screaming into the night.
Gavan, a deep sea diver, admits it is a challenge but it’s one he relishes. “I had a difficult time as a teenager and was a drug addict and suicidal for a while and I know what it takes to come back from that. I think I have good mental skills to keep myself together for this”.
Gavan aims to raise €20,000 for charities Cancer Care West and Jigsaw so if you can support that, click here: DONATE.
I wrote an profile of Gavan for the Irish Times in September which you can read here: http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/fitness/from-alcoholic-and-addict-to-extreme-adventurer-my-story-1.2769335
Tracking Gavan and Doireann:
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